Many of you with long memories (rifleman!) may recall that I decided last spring to take my 17 unused Colorado preference points and put in for a trophy mule deer hunt during the rut on Unit 137. This unit is made up of large private ranches near the little town of Kim, and after several years of cruel drought, 2015 was exceptionally moist and thus in theory should be a banner year for antler growth. Happily, I was drawn for the only nonresident late rut hunt (Dec 1-15) tag.
I decided to look for an outfitter because I didn't want to waste 17 years of accumulating points for a DIY hunt. Kirk Kennedy is a long-time outfitter in SE Colorado, as well as in NE New Mexico, and he set me up with his son, Colby, and guide, Ryan, on the 13,000-acre Swanson Ranch. Ryan also secured permission to hunt several neighboring ranches, a perk that comes with living your whole life in the community, so we had untold thousands of acres of private ground to hunt.
When we arrived in Kim on Nov 30, the ground was white with the second blizzard of the year, and every alfalfa and Haygrazer field seemed to have bucks chasing does. Some of these bucks were pretty nice, but all of them seemed to be lacking something that would keep them from scoring high, i.e. no front forks on one buck, no rear forks on another, a broken tine here or there..... I'm pretty picky about what I shoot, and I made it clear to the guides that I wanted a wide, heavy mature buck, and if he scored in the 180-190 class, well, that would be gravy.
For 4 days we kept seeing the same bucks with the same does in the same fields, so on my last hunting day, Dec 5, I had about decided that I would be going home empty handed. But on the morning of the 5th, we were cruising a long alfalfa bottom in Colby's Polaris Ranger when we startled a coyote. The coy dog ran across the field and disappeared in a patch of cedars, from which immediately 3 does and a new buck sprang out and stotted up the hill and over the ridge. We couldn't get a clear look at the buck, but we knew he was wide and heavy, so the decision was made to hunt that bottom the last afternoon to see if he would show up.
Well, no deer made an appearance, so with darkness starting to close in, we decided to cruise slowly down the alfalfa bottom to check out some other spots. Well, Lady Luck was smiling on us finally. Under two huge cottonwood trees about a half-mile from where we'd seen the deer and coyote that morning, Ryan spotted what must surely was the 3 does and wide buck. At 180 yards, the buck was clearly antsy and getting ready to bolt, but he gave me just enough time to verify his width and mass, and in less time than it takes to write this sentence, a 120-gr Nosler Partition from my .25-06 double-lunged the buck. He disappeared over an embankment and was dead within 30 yards of where he'd been standing just before. He is 31.5" wide and carries his mass well. His frame lacks the typical muley's forks and looks more like a whitetail rack. So he won't score very high, but we aged him at 6.5-7.5 years old, so that makes him a true trophy in my book...and perhaps yours too.
Due to my 4-yr struggle with pancreatic cancer, which is now Stage 4, this almost surely was my last big game hunt, and due to my unique situation, the taxidermist fast-tracked my mount and it will be hanging on my trophy room wall less than one month from the date I shot the buck.
I have a Sheep Grand Slam. I've taken each species of the North American 28, six of which score all-time B&C. I've hunted on 3 continents. But I truthfully can't think of a more worthy way to finish up one's hunting career than with the harvest of a mature mule deer buck!
The buck leapt from the embankment on the right and was dead in just seconds.
Dawaba, Colby, and Ryan.
No ground shrinkage with this buck.
One last photo before heading home to Texas.
I used Sportsmans Memory Shop in Grapeland for the taxidermy work.